Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today...
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Recent News: Panerai Watches
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Cambria, Leonore, Sagittarius iand Wianno truimph at the Argentario Sailing WeekBYM News (press release), June 18th
The 14th edition of the Argentario Sailing Week, the second round on the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Mediterranean Circuit, drew to a hugely successful conclusion on June 16th. A total of 42 yachts hailing from six different nations (France...Read more
Officine panerai opens its first boutique in OmanZawya (registration), June 17th
Officine Panerai continues the expansion and qualification of its distribution network with the opening of the new signature boutique in Muscat, Oman. The new Officine Panerai boutique is in collaboration with Al Qurum Jewellery, one of the foremost...Read more
Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge - Overall winners decidedSail World, June 16th
The fourteenth Argentario Sailing Week, part of the Mediterranean Circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, came to a close on Sunday in Porto Santo Stefano, Tuscany. Three amazing days of coastal races for the over 40 yachts from France...Read more
Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge – Day 2 in Porto Santo StefanoSail World, June 15th
Yet another sunny, warm summer day for day two of the 14th Argentario Sailing Week, part of the Mediterranean Circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge 2013. Today's winners are Skylark of 1937, (Vintage > 15mt), Sirius (Vintage < 15mt), Il Moro...Read more
Argentario Sailing Week - Panerai Classic Yacht action underwaySail World, June 14th
The fourteenth edition of the Argentario Sailing Week, the international regatta reserved for classic yachts, commenced on Thursday in Maremma, Tuscany. The majestic yachts were docked in Porto Santo Stefano as registrations were completed at the Race ...Read more
Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai: 35th edition set for CannesSail World, June 13th
The 35th edition of the Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai is set to take place from September 21st to 29th. Throughout the week, classic and vintage yachts, metric classes, Dragons, Requins and Broad One Design boats will gracefully unfurl their sails...Read more
Panerai PAM 523 – 42mm White Dial Luminor 1950Perpetuelle.com (blog), June 5th
Just over a month long ago, Officine Panerai presented the new PAM 523 Luminior Marina 1950 3 Days Automatic. Of note, this is the first watch from Panerai to incorporate the original combination of the 42MM Luminor 1950 case and a white dial...Read more
NA Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Trophy the following prizes will be ...BYM News (press release), May 30th
An authentic reproduction of N.A. Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Trophy will be awarded to the Overall Series winner; the Classic yacht with the best combined score between the three regattas. The yacht name will be engraved on the perpetual N.A. ...Read more